What You Missed at Last Week's 4A's Planning Conference

TBWA's Suzanne Powers Has Some Answers to the Most-Talked About Questions

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Suzanne Powers
Suzanne Powers
Last week the 650 planners that descended on Miami for the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual account planning conference were asked to wrestle with a basic question: What business are we really in? Are we in the advertising business? Are we admen and adwomen? Are we in the business of innovation and "creativity"? Are we brand managers? Are we producers? Or are we simply in the business of commercials and interruption and shilling goods?

If you were at the conference, you know some of the answers. If you were't, here's our top takes:

  • People are no longer waiting to hear from us. Everything we do must earn the right to have an audience, earn the right to be in their lives, on their bodies, in their minds.

  • Question the effects of all of the forces at play, rather than just the usual reaction and response to "consumer as creator" that we've typically been talking about. It's a shifting world, and understanding the landscape is more important than ever.

  • In a world where content is being created, distributed and re-created moment by moment, there are several models, approaches and, most important, "attitudes" toward helping us get there differently. We must get to ideas faster, better and more nimbly -- both within and outside of our industry our behaviors must change to help us get to ideas faster.

  • Understand the conversation, insert your brand into it and then keep going. Take the cultural conversation, create content overnight and insert it smack into the middle of the talk to help shift it and capitalize on it before the moment's stale.

  • We must create ideas that people care about and push our brands to take a position or point of view. Giving people something to care about that is bigger than themselves and more important than a simple product truth is critical. Being "good" is not a fad or trend, it is simply the way we must behave in today's world. And it's here to stay.

  • We must create content that changes the world. Creativity really is still and will always be the business we are in, but we are redefining what it means to be creative in the "advertising" business.
    Suzanne Powers is Worldwide Strategy Director at TBWA and AAAA's Account Planning Committee and Conference Chair.

  • It's a great time to be a planner, but a planner of a different sort than in years past. It's not a great time to be a pontificator, an academic or an armchair planner, which is no fun anyway. It's a great time to be a planner who gets involved -- gets out into the market, into people's homes, people's minds, people's lives, people's cultures both local and global, and infects their behavior with great ideas that make them care about themselves, the world and our brands in a different light.
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